Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Influence of Category Identity on Letter Matching: Conceptual Penetration of Visual Processing or Response Competition?

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Influence of Category Identity on Letter Matching: Conceptual Penetration of Visual Processing or Response Competition?

Article excerpt

Published online: 10 January 2012

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract Participants performed same-different matching tasks, with physical-identity instructions, on letter pairs composed from the letters B, b, and p. The letters in a pair were presented simultaneously or sequentially, with the experiments differing in whether (1) the letters could appear in two or four positions, (2) two or five SOAs were used, (3) the font was Arial or one in which the two loops of the letter B were of the same size, and (4) p did or did not occur in same pairs. With sequential presentation, different RTs were longer when the letters had the same name (Bb; within-category pair) than when they did not (Bp; between-category pair), replicating a finding by Lupyan et al. (2010). However, unlike in their study, this category effect was also significant with simultaneous presentation, tending to be nonsignificantly smaller for RTs but larger for accuracy than that obtained with sequential presentation. A similar pattern was observed when we removed a bias to respond different whenever the letter p was detected in the experiments in which p did not appear in same pairs. The presence of a category effect with simultaneous presentation is predicted by a response competition account, but not by Lupyan et al.'s conceptual-penetration-of-visual-processing account.

Keywords Same-different matching . Response competition . Continuous-flow model . Category effect . Perceptual categorization . Perceptual identification

From the mid-1960s through the mid-1980s, same-different matching tasks were among the chronometric methods most widely used by cognitive psychologists to study human information processing (see, e.g., Farell, 1985; Nickerson, 1972). This is most evident in Posner's (1978) book Chronometric Explorations of Mind, in which he relies primarily on response times (RTs) obtained in matching tasks to reach conclusions about the nature of processing systems, coordination of cognitive codes, facilitation and inhibition of psychological pathways, alertness, and the capacity and control of attention. Although same-different matching is no longer the main task used to test cognitive hypotheses, it is still exploited to examine many issues (see, e.g., Kinoshita & Kaplan, 2008; Lachmann & van Leeuwen, 2010).

In a common version of matching tasks, participants are presented with two letters simultaneously or sequentially, to which a same or different response is to be made as quickly as possible (e.g., Krueger, 1983). Instructions can base the classification on the letters' physical identity (e.g., AA would be classified as same but Aa as different) or name (category1 ) identity (e.g., both AA and Aa would be same). In such tasks, same judgments are often faster than different judgments (the same-different disparity, or fast-same effect), and same judgments for two physically identical letters are faster than those for two letters that have only name identity (the name-physical disparity; see Farell, 1985; Proctor, 1981, 1986).

Recently, Lupyan, Thompson-Schill, and Swingley (2010) used a same-different matching task to examine a currently debated issue: whether conceptual categories influence visual processing (see, e.g., Lupyan, 2008). They found that, in a physical-identity matching task, participants took longer to classify pairs as different when they shared the same name (Bb) than when they did not (Bp). This effect was significant with sequential presentation but not with simultaneous presentation, leading Lupyan et al. to conclude that it was "produced by the direct influence of category knowledge on perception, rather than by a postperceptual decision bias" (p. 682). The present study evaluated the empirical and conceptual bases of their conclusion in three experiments, with the outcome being that their account, which they referred to as "conceptual penetration of visual processing," is not strongly supported. …

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